When the parents of a young child separate, there is a general presumption that the child would benefit from the parents sharing custody. Each parent can spend quality time with the child and has an obligation to provide for their needs.
Shared custody has become such a commonplace occurrence after a divorce or breakup of unmarried parents that it has become the default expectation. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, including when the child is very young.
Many people believe that infants, especially breastfed newborn infants, should not be part of a shared custody arrangement. However, it is absolutely possible for both parents to play a role in the life of a baby.
Important considerations for infant custody
The custody arrangements you set should always focus on what is best for the child. A newborn baby has two main needs. They need nutrition, and they need to develop a trusting bond with their primary caregiver.
Bonding with both parents is important, but a lengthy separation from the primary caregiver can have long-term developmental implications for a child. Therefore, newborn custody arrangements often involve short custody sessions for the parent who is not the primary caregiver. Their visitation and parenting time may even take place at the other parent’s home so that the child doesn’t have to experience a traumatic separation in the first months of its life.
When the child’s source of nutrition is breast milk, there may be more limitations on sharing custody in the earliest months of a child’s life. If the mother pumps milk and stores it, she may be able to provide a supply to the father so that he can take the child overnight or for longer than a few hours at a time. If the mother does not pump or does not produce enough milk to send a supply of surplus, then the child’s nutritional needs will likely dictate how much parenting time is possible each session.
Infant arrangements can lead to more parenting time later
Until a child is several years old and has a strong concept of object permanence, there may be some significant limitations on how parents share custody. Some couples can make overnight visits work, while others need to focus on allowing frequent access and possibly even daily visits by the non-custodial parent.
Once the child is a little older and can tolerate overnight stays away from the primary caregiver, then the family can revisit the custody arrangements and modify them to reflect the current circumstances. Exploring complications that will impact your custody arrangements can help you protect your relationship with your children.